Posted by: Veroni Kruger | July 26, 2011

Gifts are God’s Idea

The operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is definitely evidence of the fullness of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. The gifts began to operate immediately after Pentecost amongst the believers in Acts. The gifts of faith and healing are active in Acts 3; Acts 5 records an occurrence of the gift of knowledge; the gift of discerning the spirits appears in Acts 16…. In fact, all the gifts mentioned in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 (the two contexts of Scripture that are most comprehensive in their treatment of the gifts) can be identified in the Book of Acts, except the gift of interpretation of tongues.

One cannot consider the gifts of the Holy Spirit without also proceeding to the fruit of the Spirit. As evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit is as important as the gifts of the Spirit. The fruit may be even more important, since according to Paul the occurrence of the gifts is validated by the presence of the fruit. This is the significance of the first two verses of 1 Corinthians 13.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

The challenge to the church in this regard is simple, yet urgent: God has not changed. Where are the gifts? Why are they often completely absent from the church, or otherwise meager in comparison with the wealth that Scripture describes?

A rather comical version of this challenge is told by John Wimber, founder and for many years the leader of the Vineyard movement.

Having come to faith in Christ in the Quaker movement, he was happy to attend church regularly. Soon, however, something started bothering him, and he asked of his friend who had first invited him to church: “When are we going to start doing the stuff?” When his friend asked “What stuff?” John continued: “The stuff that Jesus did.”

As he listened to the teaching of the church on Jesus, he was waiting with the beautiful fresh and naïve faith of the new convert, for the signs and wonders that Jesus did. His reasoning was that if the church were the gathering place of followers of Jesus, the logical conclusion was that the church would be doing the same “stuff” that Jesus did.

In the same way, we should ask “Where are the gifts of the Spirit in the church today?”

The theology that there was a time when these things ceased to occur, so-called cessationism, is built on an erroneous and false interpretation of the one Scripture that lends itself to that interpretation. And then it is only possible to interpret that Scripture as such when one imposes one’s own cessationist presuppositions upon it. This Scripture I am referring to is, of course, 1 Corinthians 13.8-12.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

The central thought in Paul’s writing is that when perfection comes, that which is imperfect will no longer exist. The contrast is between time and eternity. The dawn of eternity will herald the cessation of everything that belongs to the temporal world. At that time, the gifts of the Holy Spirit will no longer have any function. The gifts are given to the church for the time of the ministry of the church in this world. When this world ceases to exist, that time will be at an end, and so the gifts will cease to exist.
On the other hand, love will endure forever. God is love, so that love is already in this world a token of eternity.

The greatest weakness of a cessationist interpretation of this Scripture is the false premise that perfection has already come. One has only to look around you without the confusing bias of theological presuppositions to realize that we are very far from perfection by any stretch of imagination!

We can evaluate quite easily whether we have the fullness of the Holy Spirit. We do not have to go into complicated theologizing – we often do that when we know that we do not have grounds for our statements. We also do not have to become mystical about it. The Scriptural data on the evidence for the filling with God’s Spirit is sufficiently clear that we can simply look into the mirror of God’s Word, and see how our lives compare with biblical evidence.

When we do this, some of us will find that we are sadly lacking as far as evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit is concerned. Others may find that the power of the Holy Spirit is evident in many ways in their lives, without their realizing or appreciating it.

Many have been intimidated by what is presented in certain groups, as being the evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues and extreme emotional response to the point of hysterics have been identified in some groups as being the evidence of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. There have even been further extremes, such as considering being “slain in the Spirit” as the evidence of a powerful presence of the Spirit of God. Others have thought you have to jump around, roll, crow like a cock, roar like a lion – the inventiveness of human beings is unlimited!

Referring simply to Scripture renders all of this unnecessary, but does not diminish the challenge: Where is the power of the Holy Spirit in the church? More importantly: Am I open to having the fullness of God’s power working in and through me?

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